YouTube has over 1 billion users and streams more than 1 billion hours of video per day. YouTube’s success is due largely in part to its extensive list of creators. Known as YouTubers, these creators range from amateur vloggers to professional online stars who are some of the most influential voices on the internet. In kind, YouTube has paid out $2 billion to its creators since 2007.
For video creators interested in growing their channel and possibly securing brand deals, joining a YouTube multi-channel network is one of several different ways to make money as a YouTuber. However, the decision of whether or not to partner with a network isn’t always as straightforward as it may appear. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons of joining YouTube networks.
MCNs were originally designed to offer these services to creators in exchange for payment (typically as a revenue sharing model), while cultivating a roster of high-performing channels, as well as creating offerings for tens of thousands of emerging channels.
However, as MCNs became popular in the early-2010s, some YouTubers began speaking out against the networks for a variety of reasons.
The more YouTubers MCNs amassed, the more valuable their companies became. Larger networks, like Maker Studios, StyleHaul, AwesomenessTV, and Machinima, ended up selling to entertainment entities such as Disney and Warner Bros. Around this time, some networks also started to shift their focus and investment toward original content.
Facilities – Some of the larger networks have their own (or access to) production spaces that YouTubers can use for shooting and editing content.
Partnerships – In an effort to transmigrate audiences from one of their channels to another, MCNs create opportunities for collaboration between different in-network talent. For a small YouTuber working with a larger influencer on the platform, this can be hugely beneficial.
Brand access – Networks have relationships with various businesses looking to sponsor video content on YouTube. For creators on an MCN roster, this can mean more visibility and brand partnership opportunities than might be achieved as an independent channel. Other companies, such as influencer marketing agencies and influencer marketing platforms can also help connect YouTubers to brands looking to sponsor content.
YouTube support – While YouTube does not “endorse” the MCNs on their platform, they do offer a list of certified providers. YouTube’s pre-existing relationship with these individuals and businesses means that they can sometimes more quickly resolve content issues. Some MCNs also offer protection from misappropriated copyright strikes against creators.
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Controversies – From focusing on their own productions to treating creators poorly to providing unfair pay, the instability and shifting agenda of certain networks are too much for some creators to bear. Several popular YouTube creators have even gone so far as to broadcast unflattering reviews about their experiences with MCNs.
Monetization – When a YouTuber works with a network, they’re often required to give a portion of their channel revenue away. This money, earned through ads and based on views, run through Google AdSense, is said to pay for the MCN’s services. The MCN’s cut can be significant and may not be offset by the value of the services the MCN’s provides.
Contracts – Creators should read through and seek legal advice on any agreement with a multi-channel network. Some YouTubers have left MCNs over contract details, including perpetuity clauses with contracts often spanning multiple years.
Broken promises – Creators are often lured to MCNs with the promise of brand deals. Unfortunately, these opportunities are limited to the relationships a particular network has, which YouTubers those brands want to work with, and who the network steers a brand towards. Several YouTubers have complained about MCNs wooing them with brand deals, but never following through on their promises.
Signing too many creators – Multi-channel networks are designed to make money at scale, so many MCNs look to get as many potentially profitable creators on their network as possible. In some cases, MCNs have had as many as 50,000 channels signed to their network. This can be good for the network but can compromise the attention afforded to individual channels.
Poor communication – A selling point for many networks is their support of and dedication to creators. However, YouTubers dissatisfied with their MCN partnerships often cite the difficulties of getting in touch with their network as a major grievance.
YouTubers have other options available to them when looking to grow their following or create partnerships with brands. For instance, staying independent is still a popular preference for many YouTubers on the platform. In fact, YouTube’s own overview page for multi-channel networks states, “While some creators may choose to partner with an MCN, you don’t need to join an MCN to be successful on YouTube.”
In addition to YouTube’s native AdSense program, many YouTubers have been able to successfully attract and manage brand sponsorships on their own. YouTubers have also been able to leverage community for support and learning, with some setting up “tip jar” accounts through services like Patreon. Moreover, there are now many events geared towards the creator community, including VidCon, Beautycon, and others, where YouTubers can network with other creators to talk about their experience with different partnerships and revenue streams.
YouTubers looking for additional monetization options can also look at partnering with an influencer marketing platform or influencer marketing agency. Agencies with strong brand relationships can help many YouTubers secure a wide variety of sponsorship opportunities and realize their channel’s money-making potential.
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